When do I need to pick a major by and how important is choosing the right major for my career?

College Prep

Our counselors answered:

When do I need to pick a major by and how important is choosing the right major for my career?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Picking a Major

Students and their parents are very concerned about selecting a major and knowing the impact it will have on a career, and rightly so; college education is a very expensive proposition. However, there is no simply answer to the question about a major. History majors go on to medical school; English majors become attorneys; and education majors become accountants. The best advice is to do your best in whatever major you choose and do something that you really love rather than just choosing a major because it will look good on a resume. Students should make sure that if their college has course options that are career-related (not necessarily the case in liberal arts schools) that they try those courses. Another very important consideration are internships. I believe they are every bit as important in hiring and career development than the area in which a student majors or minors. As for when to pick a major, that is entirely dependent on the college. Students should read up on policies and deadlines regularly and talk to faculty in the areas that are interesting. In larger universities, there may be specific colleges that have career impact. Georgetown comes to mind because it has college of arts and sciences, a college for international relations, and a college for business. Remember also that students very often change majors and career direction. How do they really know at age 18 what they will want to do at age 28?

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

very important to receive career counseling

I suggest you to visit the university's career center or placement services during your college visits each time. if you are not planning to go to graduate school, then you should consider your career path very serioulsy before picking a major in college. it will cost you more time and money to change majors.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

When do I need to pick a major by and how important is choosing the right major for my career?

Most colleges require you choose a major by the second semester of your sophomore year. The "right" major is subjective and is only relevant if it will help you to reach your career goal....for example: do not choose engineering if you want to be a social worker

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

When do I need to pick a major by and how important is choosing the right major for my career?

Usually by the 3rd year or you'll be extending your date of graduation. If you're lucky enough to be 90-100% focused, it'll make all the difference in the world. I majored in French, and when I got out of college, I turned down a low-paying job in a language institute. I got into sales, and since 1977 I've been in financial services. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist, but when I found out you couldn't keep what you found (unless you were Moshe Dyan) I had to change my focus.

Susan Smith
Educational Consultant Bedford Educational Consulting

You're not alone, or at a disadvantage...

Most seventeen-year-olds don’t have a clue about majors, thinking instead about the subject in which they received the best grade. People find jobs by being in the right place at the right time or knowing someone. A student who graduated with a degree in Philosophy and now works at a radio station; another graduated from a highly acclaimed business program and is building houses. Engineering students move into computer science, art students to web design, and Hydrology majors become math teachers. In the end, your education is about giving you the ability to think critically and make intelligent decisions with the resources your undergraduate education has provided.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Your major will likely have limited impact on your career!...

How can a teenager truly know what career path(s) he will eventually follow? Only one in ten adults ultimately pursue a career that is directly related to what his major was in college. Most schools require that a major be declared by junior year. Try to choose a major that you will enjoy. Keep in mind that Medical schools often prefer English majors to Biology majors, and Law schools are known to favor Philosophy majors, as these disciplines teach effective writing and analytical skills. A solid liberal arts education will provide you with a foundation of critical knowledge and skills. Don?t be surprised if your career path is chosen by luck and happenstance.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

Follow your passions..and then your new passions...

After building a music business in high school, Adam applied to colleges with strong music business programs. He got into some, not all, and chose one with a strong music business program. Then freshman year, he changed his mind, and the school didn’t have many other majors he wanted. Now he is a happy history major at another college. Colleges love kids with passions. But if you’re undecided, then view that as your passion. That is your right. College is the time to explore and give yourself the change your mind, your passions, and major. And then sometimes the college.

Rafael Figueroa
Director, College Guidance Albuquerque Academy

Be open to new possibilities and be ready to change...

Some colleges admit by major, others allow you to be undecided or change later. Most estimates say 80% of college students will change majors at least once. That flexibility is one of the best features about our education system. I had a college friend who was in the hospital for long time. Bored, he read the course catalog from cover to cover. When he got out, he changed his major from computer science to sociology, because those courses sounded most interesting. So having a major in mind is fine, but be open to new possibilities and be ready to change.

Ralph Becker
Owner & Director Ivy College Prep LLC

College majors rarely connect precisely to a career...

College majors don’t constrict career possibilities. Don’t be swayed by this myth. I had a friend who majored in English at Tufts. After she graduated, she went to a gynecologist, whom she disliked to such a degree that she decided to become one. She went back to Tufts, took all the science courses she had avoided like the plague as an undergraduate, took the MCAT, went through Tufts Medical School, and now is the head of the gynecology department at Massachusetts General Hospital. Majors, careers, and life rarely line up perfectly. Yours won’t either: don’t fear creating your own path.

Patti Demoff
Co-Founder College Circuit

Majors and careers are often unrelated...

Honestly, I find that more people have careers unrelated to their majors than ones who do. My own history major son runs a sports team. I know a rhetoric major who is an architect, an international relations superstar who owns a Pilates studio, an art history major with a PhD in social science, an English professor with an undergraduate major in foreign service, an Asian studies major chef and an unusual number of classics majors who work with the military. And those are just the ones that immediately came to mind!